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Wireless applications getting more powerful

Next generation mobile applications will be optimized for letting users update company wide information resources. But deployment of these new improved apps could be tempered by concerns over the economy and security standards.

Making significant, real time changes to network applications, like scheduling and database software, will soon be as simple as picking up a wireless device, industry analysts say.

Tim Scannell, founder and chief analyst with Shoreline Research, a Quincy, Mass., consulting firm specializing in wireless technology, says the newest mobile applications give the user increased freedom to quickly update information and software on the home network. But development and deployment of these improved wireless applications is being curbed by concerns over the economy and industry standards, he said.

Currently, about eighty to ninety percent of deployed wireless applications are simple extensions of wired applications and give users a small window into their company's network, Scannell said. Users of these applications might be able to pull some useful information, or even update a small portion of information.

"As we move toward more pervasive wireless applications, and as synchronization technology gets a little more intuitive, wireless applications will be designed to make changes almost in real time," Scannell said. "The changes will occur not only in that main information resource, but it will cause changes in related information resources."

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For instance, if a worker in the field used a handheld to cancel a meeting, that change would be reflected almost instantly in the electronic schedules of each employee originally slated to attend. The idea, Scannell said, it to improve productivity and ROI by increasing the speed of information.

The new wireless applications "will make things happen without you having to perform an action," he said. "It's less reactive programming and more proactive programming."

One of the companies currently working toward adoption of these proactive wireless applications is Adesso Systems, located in Waltham, Mass. The company markets a platform for developing customized wireless applications and distributed computing architectures.

"The difference between this and other alternatives is they take a very strong database approach," Scannell said. "Any program that is developed from the mobile side can be directly influenced and impacted by that database on server side."

Scannell predicts that businesses will begin investing in the development of customized wireless applications once the economy improves, and concerns over security standards are eased.

Earlier this year the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) released a set of wireless security standards, but products that fully support the new specification won't be available until the end of the year.

Businesses should be wary of vendors that are already claiming to support the wireless encryption standards, Scannell said. Those products are probably based on earlier versions of the protocol and could suffer serious compatibility issues going forward. Also, he said, look out for companies that support slightly altered versions of the standard. This is a common practice designed to force customers into buying additional products.

As for the economy, Scannell said enterprises are being very cautious about investing in new projects these days.

"Once the economic picture brightens a little, which I think will be at the end of this year or early next year, you're going to see a lot more of these intuitive, very proactive wireless applications," Scannell said. "Right now, if it doesn't provide ROI in three months, IT managers don't even want to talk about it."

This was first published in May 2003

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